Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by The Hampshire Parent/Carer Network (CF 122)

1. The Hampshire Parent/Carer Network is an independent parent/carer led parent carer  forum, working with the Local Authority and Health to engage with parents/carers and to encourage effective parent participation.

2. We have been closely involved in Hampshire’s work as one of the SE7 pathfinder authorities which has been testing some of the proposed reforms. We have provided parent/carer representation on all Hampshire Pathfinder workstreams, and this response includes the thoughts and feedback from the parent representatives who have been involved, as well as other parents/carers from Hampshire. We are part of the South East Region of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums.

3. We were encouraged to see the new duty on Health which was announced recently, but remain concerned that the new Bill does not provide enough detail and reassurance to demonstrate how the government plans to support and protect the vast majority of children and young people with SEN and disabilities.

4. We continue to be concerned about the lack of statutory protection for children who are not eligible for EHC plans (ie those currently at School Action or School Action Plus) and strongly urge the Government again to reconsider their decision to exclude children with disabilities who do not have SEN.

5. Our particular concerns are as follows:

5.1 It would appear that there are no longer time limits within the legislation for the local authority to be required to make a decision about whether to issue an EHC plan following a statutory assessment of a child’s needs. Reducing the time taken to carry out an assessment will be meaningless if there is then no requirement to make a decision about whether to issue a plan. We can only assume this is an oversight, which we suggest needs to be urgently amended.

5.2 It appears there will be no standard form for an EHC plan as there is for a statutory assessment. This will make it more difficult for families moving between local authorities and will also mean that there is a potential for plans to be created which do not clearly set out legally enforceable provision.

5.3 We note that clause 2.4 of the Indicative Draft Code of Practice refers to local authorities and health working alongside Parent Carer Forums. It is disappointing that this section refers to what the statutory bodies should do to involve Parent Carer forums rather than that they must do so. We feel that this needs to be amended to ensure that all authorities work in partnership with parents on a strategic and individual level.

5.4 We are concerned that Section 6.9 d of the Indicative Draft Code of Practice does not state that interventions (such as therapies) must be specified and quantified. Edward Timpson has stated that it is not intended that any current protections won’t be weakened – if this is the case then this section needs to be amended to more closely reflect the current Code of Practice.

5.5 We would like the government to consider how the quality of EHC plans and statutory assessments will be monitored. Ideally, this would be through a body such as OFSTED, and would ensure that the assessments are thorough and comprehensive and the plans include provision which is specified and quantified adequately, which has been lacking in some areas for statements of SEN. They could also ensure that the provisions set out in the local offer are actually available to families of children with SEN.

5.6 We believe that there needs to be a mandatory requirement for meaningful IEPs and structured conversations as per Achievement for All guidelines, to protect those children with additional needs/disabilities who are not eligible for an EHC plan (those who will receive the EHC plan are a very small proportion of all children with additional needs).

5.7 We ask that transport to and from school is included in the Bill. For many children with SEN, the most appropriate school is some distance away from where they live and transport provision will be required.

5.8 Minimum national standards for the Local Offer need to be included within legislation - A specified minimum level of provision that Local Authorities will have a duty to provide to children with education, health and/or social care needs who are not eligible for an EHCP. This should avoid the "postcode lottery" which many families find themselves victims of. We would like to see these standards developed in conjunction with experts in particular disabilities and specific Special Educational Needs, to ensure that the Education, Care and Health standards meet with the latest recommendations and are needs led, not resource led.

5.9There has been a shift in the legislation to issuing draft plans and inviting school choices from the parent or young person. As a parent is legally responsible for a child until they are 18, it would make sense for communications and consultation to be with both a parent and young person.

5.10 We note that the new Draft Care and Support Bill gives improved rights to carers, but not to young carers or carers of disabled children. The new Bill puts a duty on local authorities which will ensure that they look at a carer’s needs. Importantly the Bill makes several changes which will make it easier for carers to get this assessment from their local council;
It removes the requirement for carers to ask for an assessment, and

It removes the requirement for the carer to be providing regular and substantial care.

Instead, the only requirement is that the carer ‘may have needs for support – whether currently or in the future’ – if this is the case then councils would be obliged to carry out an assessment without having to wait for the carer to request one. We feel the Children and Families Bill should be amended to give equal rights to young carers and carers of Disabled Children.

April 2013

Prepared 26th April 2013